Creating the path for peace and harmony in PNG
Sime Darby commits to employment & training in PNG

Kids have so much to offer: but not exploitation & petty crime


IT is common in Papua New Guinea to see kids and youths on the road filling potholes and demanding payment from the travelling public.

Anecdotal evidence show this practice first developed along the Highlands Highway when villagers began to hold up travellers for ransom.

This practice has now taken a new twist.

There are reports of villagers deliberately blocking roads by chopping down nearby trees. They then demand payment for removing them.

Most parts of PNG have contracted this infection, even Port Moresby.

I was astonished a week ago when youths from my street undertook a ‘pothole filling exercise’ and began to demand money from vehicles.

What was particularly annoying was the sight of these ‘informal civil contractors’ drinking and having a good time afterwards using their ill-gotten gains.

While the National Capital District government is spending huge sum of money to rehabilitate major roads and build new ones, feeder roads and local streets are falling victims to these informal contractors.

I don’t want to discourage youthful initiatives, but they should be beneficial and not be done to satisfy a craving for alcohol.

There’s another trade gaining popularity in Port Moresby. It entails self-appointed ‘traffic officers’ directing vehicles into parking spots. The average age of these perpetrators is around 10.

Unlike their professional and licensed counterparts (also well renown for charging unofficial “commissions” when discharging their duties), this lot operates on the goodwill of drivers.

So long as they get something in return for their guidance they are happy. But they habitually pester drivers for money or anything eatable or valuable they lay their eyes on and this is when it becomes a problem.

I often wonder if they are orphans or doing it with consent from their parents. If the latter, it is negligent of parents to be doing that to their own kids. It’s a situation you would see in an impoverished nation of third world standing.

Someone mentioned to me that a vehicle does drops off and picks up these kids. No welfare officers in sight. People look at the kids with a smile or a joke. But these kids are prone to danger and can be exploited.

While these practices clearly need urgent attention from the government, there is another more subtle profession requiring intervention.

Child hawkers are now common on the roadsides of Port Moresby. There is an argument that children assist their parents financially when taking part in informal economic activities. Yet it is a concern when you see kids as young as 10, who are supposed to be in school, on the streets trying to make ends meet for themselves and their families.

While the government is trying to improve PNG’s school enrolment figures through free Education, it seems the policy is not altering the status quo. The government needs to address the problems that force kids into this lifestyle.

Perhaps we need a law prohibiting kids from these activities during school hours. After school they can help their parents but with an understanding that they are not vendor into the late hours of the night.

Parents also need to be made aware of their responsibilities for their children’s future.

We need to protect our children and youths and provide the opportunities for them to chase their dreams and meaningfully contribute to the development of our nation.


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